GAA Football

Mickey Harte one of the great managers, says Ulster GAA chief Brian McAvoy

Mickey Harte guided Tyrone to three All-Ireland titles. Picture: Seamus Loughran.
Andy Watters

ULSTER GAA chief Brian McAvoy says Mickey Harte’s many achievements with Tyrone place him among the elite Gaelic Football managers.

In his annual report, McAvoy wrote that Glencull native Harte, who guided the Red Hands to Sam Maguire success in 2003, 2005 and again in 2008 deserved his spot in the pantheon of greats which includes Kerry’s Mick O’Dwyer, Dublin’s Kevin Heffernan and Jim Gavin and Sean Boylan of Meath.

“Mickey spent an incredible 30 consecutive years in charge of Tyrone teams at minor, U21 and senior levels, the last 18 of which were with the latter,” reflected McAvoy.

“When he took charge of the Tyrone minor team in 1991 few would have dared to think what an incredible journey he and Tyrone football would embark upon.

“It was a journey laced with both triumph and tragedy. Success cannot be measured in trophies alone but the record of Mickey Harte’s tenure has ensured a place for him at the top table of great Gaelic Football managers: O’Dwyer, Heffernan, Boylan, Gavin, Harte… they almost roll off the tongue.”

As well as the three prized All-Ireland titles, Harte’s Tyrone won the National Football League, six Ulster senior titles, 12 Dr McKenna Cups, two All-Ireland U21 titles and one All-Ireland Minor title. “After Mickey started out on his inter-county managerial career in 1991 success didn’t come instantly but the Tyrone County Committee of the time had the vision to realise that he was developing a group of players, both in terms of their football ability and their character,” McAvoy writes.

“The first All-Ireland success didn’t come until 1998 (the young minor team of the previous year reached the All-Ireland final and had to endure the tragic loss of their colleague Paul McGirr who died tragically from injuries sustained in their opening Ulster Championship game that season) but it was the catalyst for an avalanche of success, spearheaded by those three Sam Maguire Cup-winning victories in the space of six seasons.

“Mickey’s enduring faith undoubtedly helped him through the bad times with the sudden death of Cormac McAnallen in 2004 and the brutal murder of his daughter Michaela on her honeymoon in 2011.

“His character shone through during those dark times and has continued to shine through.”

While Tyrone was obviously first and foremost in his thinking, it was often obvious that Harte was genuinely glad to see other Ulster teams having success as he felt that would improve the standard of football in the province.

McAvoy said that Ulster GAA owed a debt of gratitude to Harte for the contribution he made “not only in Tyrone, but throughout the province”.

“He has always been very supportive of Ulster GAA and it is only fitting that I thank him for the many occasions that he selflessly gave of his time when we sought his attendance at Ulster GAA organised events and launches,” he said.

“When he stepped down as the Tyrone supremo he said he wouldn’t be buying the slippers just yet. “Needless to say, we didn’t have to wait long before we heard of his next footballing adventure. We wish him well and no doubt there will be an increased focus on the Louth football fortunes in the coming years.

“Thanks for everything Mickey and best wishes for the future.”

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